SkillsDigital Fabrication | Illustrator | CNC | Solar | Visual Design | Prototyping | Rhino

Summary: Street Beacon is a submission for the NYC Reinvent Payphone Challenge, providing real-time, hyper-local info for each payphone. With Street Beacon, every NYC payphone is turned into a sentient agent that tweets real-time updates and messages about its neighborhood

Project Background: New York City launched a Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge inviting participants to redesign New York City's payphones. Street Beacon was our submission for the Challenge. It provided real-time, hyper-local info for each payphone and turned every NYC payphone into a sentient agent that tweeted real-time updates and messages about its neighborhood. Every submission was judged on 5 criteria.

  • Connectivity: Ability to connect New Yorkers and enable communication, including for safety and emergency purposes
  • Creativity: Originality, innovation and quality of idea
  • Visual Design: Including visual appeal and user experience
  • Functionality: Flexibility, versatility, scalability, accessibility and sustainability
  • Community Impact: Support of local residents, businesses and cultural institutions

Our constraints were baed on connectivity, design, community impact, sustainability, accessibility, and safety.

Team and your role: Dontae Rayford, Robert Sanchez, Steve Cordova, Sam Slover, Victoria Mo, Tom Hsu, Thilmin Gee. I was in charge of web and the design and fabrication of the prototype. We were all involved during the ideation phase.

The Work: When we heard about the Reinvent Payphone project, we really wanted to develop something attention-grabbing and something that looked nicer than the payphones we see today. 

After brainstorming for a while, we rallied behind the “beacon” concept. For thousands of years beacons have been used as gathering points, sources of information and navigational guides. And that’s exactly what we wanted our project to represent. We wanted the design of the installation to relay a sense of unobtrusiveness. 

In addition to providing the utility of having a place to sit or a phone to use, we also wanted to incorporate elements of sustainability. With power from solar panels and a rooftop garden, we ensured that we could minimize SB’s footprint. 

As far as usage was concerned, we wanted the SB experience to be about a two-way dialogue - equipping installations with sensors capable of detecting pollution levels, pollen levels, noise, traffic patterns and more - only to turn around and make all of this data available through our API

So when users get to a kiosk, they’ll be met with tons of rich information via native and 3rd party applications. Relevant commute updates, leads to local businesses, interactive fitness challenges, local history and more. And to make these data sets more robust and more relevant, we capture tons of rich information from user interactions. From sentiment analysis all the way down to user drawn art submission.

All-in-all, we wanted to redefine what it meant to stop at a payphone. 

Success Metrics: We won the Payphone Hack Challenge, a lead-up to NYC's Reinvent Payphone Design Challenge. The physical build of a scale model was interesting because it gave us some insight into how people would physically interact with a full size model and how potentially it would look in a city setting.   


What You Would Have Done Differently: Had we had the time to make more collateral, I think we should have created a concept video. Sometimes without an added visual component, your idea may not be fully understood. Further iterations in addition to just paper prototyping may have been advantageous. We had an idea of how this would have been used in real space, but more play testing could have affirmed some design decisions. Overall we were very happy with the design and the software component that was built.

Project website can be found here.